The Swiss based manufacturer Bullskate has recently appeared on my radar. They are producing a familiar format of "pegger" style bike available for sale or rent from a number of outlets in Switzerland.
According to their website:
The frame is handmade in Taiwan, is powder coated and has an advanced downhill geometry. The rear damper includes rebound adjustment and allows for 154mm travel. For the front suspension we decided on the RST R1 double bridge downhill fork with 180mm of travel. With these two components the rider is assured of a comfortable and safe ride in any conditions while standing or seated and is able to rip in the park and absorb most obstacles on the slopes.
It will be interesting to see if their involvement at various Swiss ski resorts will open up new terrain in Switzerland. Although it is arguably the most expensive place to ski in Europe they do have a reputation for the best areas bar none. It will also be interesting to see the effect on the other ski resorts if the Swiss choose to spend more of their disposable income on skibikes and skibiking.
|Bullskate Snowbike - not just for girls!|
As I didn't have any relevant experience, I passed the request on to Olivier Wagner of the French Skibike Club who was able to open negotiations with the resort management.
To my great surprise Olivier mailed today to announce that "we now officially have the right to use our snowbikes in Risoul".
This is what Snow-forecast.com has to say about Risoul:
Combined with the neighbouring resort of Vars, Risoul offers almost 180 km of piste that should keep most people happy. The two resorts make the La Foret Blanche ski area. The resort is more low-key than many of the Alpine resorts but it should not be overlooked. Risoul boasts a good snow record and the off-piste opportunities are plentiful. Experts may look at the piste map and be disheartened but there are plenty of steep runs out there that are unmarked. This just sums up the understated nature of the Risoul. One possible criticism is the relatively slow lift network. However, this is being upgraded over time. Off the slopes, the village of Risoul seems to be friendly with less of the attitude that can be found in some of the bigger resort complexes.
|Risoul - now open for skibiking|
You will will often see the big 4x4s, pickups and sundry SUVs, around the Alpine resorts. However; chances are that the piste bully driver who had to start work at 6pm, the person who delivered the groceries at 6am, or the local housewife getting the kids to school can't justify the running costs of such gas guzzling behemoths.
Time and again, I have seen them driving small, economical, front wheel drive hatchbacks or "breadvans"; they will have winter tyres fitted and will carry snow chains for when the conditions get treachorous. They may even have opted for an extra inch or two of lift on the suspension to clear mounds of accumulated snow. But the bottom line is that, providing you can get traction, the difference between 50 and 500 horsepower is negligable in getting you to the top of the hill.
The mountain rescue services have favoured the humble Fiat Panda 4x4 for years, over bulky and overly complex rivals.
For my Alpine adventures I had to use a Ford Fiesta Mk4 Encore model, this, I believe is the most basic variant you can find. The windows wind up and down on a handle just like they did on the Ford Anglia and the engine is of the same vintage. There is no power steering, climate control or reclining hubcaps.
But above 1000 metres when the temperature drops below freezing, less is often more. Less electrics mean there are no needless drains on the battery, with no power steering you have much more feel through the steering in slippery conditions and who needs air conditioning when its -10 degrees outside.
The el cheapo brand tyres fitted to my car were hopeless in most conditions; yet the addition of a pair of snow chains costing less than a single 4x4 tyre, it was transformed into a crude but cheap "go up anything" machine. It may not have been the fastest vehicle up the hill, but at 40+mpg, who cares.
Once you are in serious mountain country, nature dictates how you live your life. The pattern of snow fall, ice, frost, sunlight and darkness will determine where you go, what you can do and the speed at which it will happen.
If you think otherwise, you are probably the victim of slick TV advertising campaigns, aimed at those who will never take their shiny 4x4s any further than the nearest golf club or supermarket car park.
|Skibiker - not the victim of slick TV advertising campaigns|